With thirty orders already on the books, the Sunseeker Manhattan 53, is defying all odds. What’s the secret of its success?
Sunseeker’s ever expanding range of superyachts may have been grabbing all the headlines of late, but the new Manhattan 53 is arguably the most important boat the British yard will build.
As the first step on their flybridge ladder, it plays a vital role in attracting new customers to the brand and acts as a launch pad for moving up through the range.
The preceding Manhattan 50 and Manhattan 52 notched up 244 sales between them, coming off the line at the rate of almost one a week at their peak.
That’s a mighty tough act to follow but a brand-new hull, packing 15% more volume, and a classy new look inside and out seem to be pushing all the right buttons with customers.
More than 30 deposits have already been taken for the new boat following its launch at the Cannes and Southampton boat shows.
The big question now is whether it can deliver all that extra space and luxury without losing the driving edge that has been the hallmark of all great Sunseekers.
A true British test
We caught up with our Manhattan 53 in Poole, just after the Southampton Boat Show, on a blustery October day.
With the larger of the two available engine options installed – the torquey MAN 800s – the Manhattan 53 accelerated so well as we cleared the entrance channel, it had us looking round to see who was chasing us.
Hitting 30 knots from a standing start in 26 seconds is impressive for a boat that was by no means lightly loaded and it topped out at exactly 32 knots in our two-way performance trial.
While the variable-vee hull seemed happy at all speeds, and sat solidly on the plane at around 15-16 knots with minimal input required from the trim tabs, it is evident from the fuel consumption that this design is optimised as a fast cruiser.
The cruising range curve peaks at just under 2,000rpm, at which point the Manhattan is skimming along at slightly better than 25 knots.
That translates, in an ideal world, to breakfast in St Raphael and lunch in Portofino. Though this particular boat, the third off the production line, is actually destined to do its cruising in the azure seas of the Mediterranean, it was designed within sight of the white-flecked grey of the English Channel – and on our early-October test, that’s exactly what we got.
Studland Bay was pretty flat but away from the towering, chalky lee of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast it was a different story.
With a stiff breeze, clouds scudded across a troubled sky, and serried ranks of steep, two-metre waves marched up-Channel.
It only took one wave to make us realise that we should have put our waterproofs on. As we blasted out past the Old Harry stacks, the Sunseeker Manhattan 53’s capable hull shouldered the seas aside and raised great clouds of spray.
Which, with a kind of awesome inevitability, seemed to hang over the starboard side before being blown back onto the flybridge and drenching its ill-prepared occupants.
Driving the Sunseeker Manhattan 53
The only way for our photographers to get their running shots was to turn downwind, towards the Isle of Wight.
Running parallel to the big 62ft photo boat, with the seas directly astern, the Sunseeker Manhattan 53 tracked as true as you could wish.
With plenty of bottom-end grunt from the 6-cylinder MANs, the slightest squeeze of the throttles provided enough extra heave to climb over the backs of the bigger ones.
Slaloming across the wake of the photo boat under the direction of the sadist with the Nikon, things weren’t quite so straightforward.
While its response to standard helm inputs was fine, our Sunseeker Manhattan 53 did show a reluctance on occasion to turn hard to starboard, once or twice simply sticking in the groove and exhibiting the classic symptoms of rudder stall.
After our sea trial a thorough investigation by Sunseeker’s own engineers revealed that due to the much heavier specification and upgraded engine option of this boat compared to the previous 53s built, an adjustment to the rudder set-up was needed.
This is standard practice for all the different engine options and would normally have been picked up and sorted during Sunseeker’s own sea trials but the timing of Southampton Boat Show meant they hadn’t had time to complete them prior to our agreed test date.
Sunseeker assure us that with the altered set-up, the steering is now performing perfectly.
Their work done, the photographers retreated to the warmth of the 62’s saloon while we turned to face the long slog back to Poole.
Waves seem bigger and steeper when they’re coming at you, and the sky looked greyer too.
It’s a familiar situation to anyone who has cruised in UK waters: worse weather than anticipated, some way still to go, and no choice but to get on with it and make the best speed you can.
The Sunseeker Manhattan 53 was utterly unfazed. The hull’s deep forefoot made short work of the waves, and sent not a drop of spray aboard.
The Sunseeker’s steering was light and responsive enough to pick an easy path around the breaking crests, with no repetition of the problem of a few minutes before.
In fact the hull seemed so calmly confident that at no point did we consider dropping off the plane to make the ride easier.
At between 18 and 20 knots we made good progress towards the distant Dorset coast, increasing speed gradually as we gained the lee of the land.
It was classic British cruising weather – and the Manhattan 53 proved itself a classic British cruising boat.
Accommodation on the Sunseeker Manhattan 53
Our test boat was fitted with the optional crew cabin – a single-berth compartment complete with a shower and WC, reached via a hatch in the transom. The alternative is a big lazarette for cruising gear.
As a cabin it’s small but functional and a useful option to have for chartering duties or a teenage kid. For owner drivers spending longer periods of time on board, the big lazerette may prove even more valuable.
Essentially the Sunseeker Manhattan 53 is a three-cabin, two-heads cruiser, and one of the most impressive things about the downstairs layout is the third cabin.
It’s a proper two-berth compartment, with full-size berths, plenty of headroom in the entrance area and 6ft 1in (1.85m) between the beds.
And although the main companionway does intrude over the inner berth, it has been designed in such a way that you’ll barely notice. This cabin is tight on stowage space, however.
The hanging locker is a good size, but the other lockers are shallow, and the two small drawers are strictly socks and pants.
Up in the bows the VIP cabin is also well laid out, with a big, central double berth, and a generously-proportioned shower and WC compartment on the starboard side, which can also be accessed from the corridor.
There are a variety of lockers and drawers in here, arranged along the hull sides and under the bed.
There is also some extra stowage under the mattress, which could prove invaluable in swallowing up some of your guests’ bags and suitcases.
The midships master suite is big, and seems bigger when sunlight floods in through those huge hull windows.
There is full-standing headroom all the way round the bed and the intrusion of the saloon sole in the deckhead over the bed is far less pronounced than in the 52.
This and the step up into the shower and WC compartment to port are the only real reminders that you’re aboard a Sunseeker Manhattan 53 rather than a Manhattan 63 – it’s an excellent cabin.
The living spaces as a whole, twinned with the kind of on-deck sociable areas we’ve come to expect from flybridge cruisers, gives owners great versatility to eat, lounge, sleep and be very content.
The accommodation particularly belies its nominal 53ft size bracket and will ensure you can host groups of friends and family on board with ease.
Sunseeker Manhattan 53 deck spaces
With its expanse of windows, low-level furniture and a pleasingly rational, right-angled layout, the main deck seems unusually spacious.
It’s not some clever optical illusion, though, because with the galley down and forward, there are no bulkheads or eye-level lockers to break up the sightlines.
A deep, grated scupper at the threshold ensures a step-free, single-level sole between the saloon and cockpit, while forward and up two steps you’re enjoying the views from the raised dining and helm area.
The dinette will seat four in comfort, six with a couple of stools, and dinner is a few steps away.
The chef will appreciate the expansive worktop area and the generous volume of stowage down in the galley. Which feels especially big, bright and airy thanks to its unlimited headroom and the windscreen overhead. There is also a useful wine fridge and locker for glasses behind the helm seat.
While the saloon sideboard, although not as big as it looks due to the cutout required for headroom in the cabin beneath, also contains numerous useful cupboards and drawers, as well as the concealed LED television.
With its uncompromising yet practical right angles and flat planes, our test boat’s interior finish of white lacquer, cream vinyl and expensive black American walnut veneer struck just the right balance between modernist cool and indulgent opulence.
It seemed especially attractive in the light saloon where, by day, the decor felt stylish with a hint of beach-chic and by night the comfy sofas felt snug and homely.
The flybridge offers plenty of additional entertaining space, with a big sunpad and plenty of seating. In good weather the table up here, the largest on board, might prove to be the favoured option for family mealtimes, sheltered from the sun under the bimini top.
Its central pedestal can also be fitted with a fridge and grille. There is further sunbathing space on the foredeck, via wide and secure side decks, and another sunpad behind the U-shaped cockpit seat.
A larger sunpad can be specified at the expense of cockpit floor space if you wish.
A closer look at the Sunseeker Manhattan 53
Enormous windows in the master cabin make all the difference down below, flooding the compartment with so much light it actually seems bigger.
Good-size opening portholes, too.
Linking engines and thrusters seamlessly, the excellent ZF joystick can only be used with hydraulic thrusters.
Unlike the rival Xenta system, which Sunseeker are also trying out.
The Sunseeker Manhattan 53’s galley is seriously good.
It has lots of useful worktop space, plenty of light and air, and no fewer than 13 practical lockers and drawers of various sizes, including a neat cutlery drawer.
Tightly packed but pretty well organised and tidily engineered, the Sunseeker Manhattan 53’s machinery space is a slightly odd shape thanks to the crew cabin immediately aft.
With fuel tanks outboard and the genset aft, compact straight-6 MANs make the best of the limited space down here – and the alternative CAT C12s have a similar footprint, being slightly shorter but slightly wider.
Sunseeker Manhattan 53 verdict
While from the outside Sunseeker’s latest ‘entry-level’ flybridge cruiser might not look a lot different from its hugely successful predecessor, many significant changes have been made under the skin.
Most importantly, the layouts both on the main deck and down below rely much more on efficient right angles to maximise available space.
It works – stand in the saloon or the starboard cabin, and the Sunseeker Manhattan 53 both looks and feels a lot bigger than the increases to length and beam might suggest.
With the 800hp engines the Manhattan 53 performs as a Sunseeker should, with zippy acceleration and a high cruising speed, and a thoroughbred hull to let you to make the most of them.
Conditions during our test were pretty rough for a boat of this size and it handled them with panache. As well as providing a sophisticated platform for relaxation and entertaining, the new Manhattan 53 is a lot of fun.
Don’t be misled by the shipyard’s slightly eccentric naming policy – this Manhattan 53 is actually longer, stemhead to transom, and on the waterline, than many 55s. A lot of fun, and also a lot of boat.
First published in the December 2011 issue of MBY.
Starting price (twin 715hp): £945,600
Starting price (twin 800hp): £994,800
Price as tested: £1.19 million
Length overall: 60ft 2in (18.35m)
Beam: 15ft 5in (4.70m)
Hull length: 52ft 0in (15.85m)
Fuel capacity: 484 imp gal (2,200 litres)
Water capacity: 137 imp gal (625 litres)
Draught: 4ft 2in (1.26m)
RCD category: B (for 12 people)
Displacement: 27.4 tonnes (half load)
Designers: Sunseeker International